Romantic Orientation Revisited

The first post I wrote about my romantic orientation is here, and be warned, it’s rambley and inconclusive.

Technically, the definition of aromantic is one who does not experience romantic attraction.  I guess I meet the criteria.

However, since a lot of ace explanations and coming out is followed up with butasexualscanstillgetcrushes, it’d feel misleading not to bring up the fact that sexual orientation is not romantic orientation, but it’d also be trickier to explain that distinction without myself as an example… and if I were to identify as aro, that would complicate my ability to express my stance on (the possibility of being involved in) romantic relationships.  And perhaps that’s as it should be, since people still need to learn that attraction isn’t the determining basis of a relationship.  But asexuality alone is a lot for some people to swallow, and at some point you get tired of explaining things.

Sorry, let me back up a little.

Even if I’ve already got a handle on identifying my attractions and desires, there remains to be found a concise way to communicate about them that doesn’t sound contradictory or create an unmanageable amount of misunderstanding.  That is, I don’t know how to describe the fact that despite what’s either my aromanticism or strong aromantic tendencies, I still would like to get married some day.

Sharing a similar experience, Sam left a comment that included these thoughts:

What I do think would work would be applying the attraction/desire distinction—or perhaps the primary/secondary attraction one, but I’m not overly fond of that model—to the romantic gradient as well as the sexual, and coming up with a rough parallel to libidoist (the best name I’ve been able to come up with is “amorist”, which isn’t perfect but might be better than some of the terms we already use regularly). Desiring a romantic relationship but not having that feeling directed toward anyone in particular, or, as you said, “in the abstract.”

Romantic desire without romantic attraction.  The way I use the words attraction and desire, it would make sense.  One can occur without the other.  I’m torn about whether I need a label for wanting a committed monogamous relationship of some sort (which, for me, wouldn’t necessarily have to be romantic but which could include some notion of the romantic) but the fact of the matter is that it’s still important to distinguish and explain, since most aros I’ve heard from would prefer not to pair off in the same manner.  The general (often correct) assumption is that aros don’t want to date people.  So how am I supposed to indicate an openness to romantic relationships without qualifying the term “aromantic”?

If all that’s not enough, I already fit the stereotypes just a little too well.  In combination with my pragmatic personality and interest in writing out charts and contracts and tables to clarify expectations and boundaries and goals, admitting that I don’t experience romantic or sexual attraction is going to make it look like I approach relationships in the blunt, methodical way that I do because I “don’t experience passionate feelings for people” or some nonsense.  I’m not a robot; I’m someone who likes to pay particular attention to the nature of my wants and feelings, someone who likes efficiency and precision.  My predilection for check boxes and clarification and mathematical thinking is not at the expense of passion.  I can get quite passionate about my math, thank you very much.  Oh, and people, I like people too, sometimes.  They’re great.  Really.  Occasionally.  Well, you know.

Dropping the heteroromantic label may seem to invalidate the point of what I said in I Am Not Straight, but since I’m not queer either, that person (and those who think similarly) would probably still say that calling me het is close enough for jazz, and I’d give that to them.  Doesn’t really matter when you’re arguing with people like that.  Might as well take on some of the assumptions they use and beat them within the given parameters.

Am I actually more hetrom than I think?  God, I don’t know.  I’m unsure if I’m capable of experiencing romantic attraction and also unsure how to label my relationship interests, so for now I’d rather just call myself quasiromantic — which I’m not trying to push as a “real” orientation label or whatever gets your feathers ruffled.  It’s just a makeshift term to express the linguistic problem I’m having as a aro ace who still wants to court someone.

And maybe an aro ace engaging in a romantic relationship would seem insincere or invalid, but it’s kind of like an asexual person being interested in sex without sexual attraction — and if you aren’t already familiar with that example, well, you should probably get off this blog and go look into that.

If I’m interested in romantic relationships, it’s not because I’m lying about not getting crushes on people, either.  I’ve never had my heart broken before, in the purely romantic sense — and while that’s convenient and all, it also means that I can’t relate to an experience that most people assume is universal.  In high school, I remember a girl telling me, with complete conviction, that broken hearts happen to everyone.  “It’ll happen,” she said.  That was high school.  I’m now in college.  It hasn’t happened.

So if I’m hesitant about taking on the aromantic label, it’s not for lack of qualification.  It’s just a matter of impression management.  A romantic relationship without sexual attraction is one thing, but a romantic relationship without romantic attraction or sexual attraction?  That’s hard to delinate from other relationship types even for me, which just further highlights the arbitrary, subjective nature of the whole thing.  Maybe there are folks who say you can’t have a romantic relationship without at least one of those things, and maybe that’s fair; I’m not inclined to argue with that — but taking away the phrase “romantic relationship” from people like me (even if it’s an imperfect phrase in the first place) only serves to hamper my ability to explain what I want.

If nothing else, you’ve got to at least let me do what RPG gamers do and use the word “romance” as a transitive verb.

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3 responses to “Romantic Orientation Revisited

  • Calum P Cameron

    Nice ramble.

    I’m pretty sure I’m aromantic myself, because not only have I never fallen in love, I’ve also never really WANTED to, as long as I’m allowed to grow old with my close friends and pseudo-family. It sounds like I’ve got it pretty easy by comparison.

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